When that final groundball rolled through the infield, settled into Martin Prado’s glove and was tossed to first base, Dave Robertson turned back toward the plate and pumped his fist. At least in the mind of the Yankees’ closer, this win mattered.
“Every win’s big for us now,” Robertson said. “We’ve dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, but this is September baseball, and I’ve seen amazing things happen. I’ve seen Tampa get in on the last day, and Boston fall out of the playoffs. You can’t give up hope, and you’ve got to try to grind out every single game. One win today. Wish we could have taken one yesterday, but one win’s big. Have to continue.”
We’ll find out later tonight whether this win actually made any sort of difference in the standings, but the key for the Yankees is that they keep this from being an isolated incident. They needed to bounce back from yesterday’s disappointment, and a three-run second inning did that. Now the only thing to do is try to win again tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day.
“I told you, we’re going to have to win a lot of games,” Joe Girardi said. “Win one tomorrow. That’s all we can do. We have to go out and win tomorrow.”
It was another game when the offense didn’t do a ton, and it was another win that rested largely on the pitching staff, but a win is a win. For one day, all the Yankees could do was win one, and I guess that’s big enough for the time being.
“Three runs by no means is a lot, especially when we got them all early,” Chris Young said. “But for our guys to lock that lineup down like they did, it was huge for us today. It was a really big win today.”
• Bit of a grind for Shane Greene today, but even with an elevated pitch count he got the Yankees into the sixth inning with just two runs. “He did a really good job,” Girardi said. “He was getting outs when he had to, that’s the bottom line. He was making pitches when he had to. They fouled a lot of pitches off on him today, but he made some big pitches.”
• Here’s Greene: “I felt like early my slider was good, but I couldn’t throw it for a strike. As the game went on, I started throwing it for a strike a little bit more and it helped a lot. … I trust it. I just have to keep going to it until I find it.”
• Greene is 4-0 with a 2.72 ERA in six road starts this season. The Yankees have not lost a game that he started on the road. Overall, the Yankees have won six of Greene’s past eight starts and Greene has left the game with the Yankees leading in nine of his 12 starts.
• Camden Yards might be an early favorite for Greene. He’s struck out nine or more batters three times this season, and two of those have come here in Baltimore.
• Robertson threw 35 pitches yesterday, and he could feel it today. “A little sore warming up,” he said. “Once I got going, I felt a lot better. I didn’t have the greatest command coming into the game, but I knew that I was going to be able to find the zone. Obviously I wasn’t going to allow any walks. Kind of hung a curveball. I was throwing it for strikes, but it kind of hung up a little higher than I would have liked. Started out with a runner on first because of that single.”
• Before the game, Robertson assured Girardi and Larry Rothschild that he’d be able to lock down one inning. Given the current situation, how sore would he have been to tell the coaching staff he couldn’t pitch? “Unable to get the ball to the catcher to not come in there today,” he said.
• Another hit for Chris Young who’s hitting .417/417/.958 since stepping into the Yankees lineup. “He’s been really, really good,” Girardi said. “You look at his last at-bat, he just missed hitting a homer. A couple today. He’s swinging the bat well; that’s why he’s in there.”
• Young technically stole home today. It was on the back end of a double steal. He was basically able to walk home after Antoan Richardson stole second with two outs in the second. “We talk about it at third base before it even happens,” Young said. “You know if he gets a good jump, most likely he’s going to be safe. The situation being that they still may gamble and taking a chance on getting him, you just go for it and say if you see the catcher look like he’s going to throw it, you just take a gamble, take a chance and try to steal a run. It was pretty easy for me just to walk in. The credit really goes to Twon just to get the bag in that situation.”
• Speaking of Richardson, he got his first career RBI today. He’s played alright these past two days in his first career starts.
• Brian McCann hit his 19th home run of the season, and his third home run on the road. All eight of his previous hits against the Orioles this season were singles.
• Robertson has 36 saves this season and 44 saves in his career. That puts him in a tie with Rafael Soriano for the eight-most saves in Yankees history.
• Final word to Girardi: “We’ve been in a lot of these games, yeah. We’ve been in a ton of these games and I’ve said going back to May or June that we were going to have to win these type of games. These are the type of games we need to win.”
Associated Press photos
Plenty of confusion tonight about the fifth-inning play at the plate that essentially cost the Yankees their best chance to tie the game. But the reality is — and everyone seemed to agree — that baseball’s evolving rule about blocking the plate never should have come into play because Stephen Drew never should have been waved home in the first place.
“To begin with, just a bad send,” third-base coach Rob Thomson said. “Just an error on my judgment. I take full responsibility for it. We’re all accountable around here. It just wasn’t a good decision. Nobody out, the middle of the lineup coming to the plate, I’ve got to stop him right there. I thought the outfielder was going a little bit further to the line. He came up and squared up (to throw) pretty quick. I should’ve stopped him. … From my perspective, the ruling doesn’t really come into play. It’s just a matter of whether I think that guy is going to be able to score or not, and (the rule) shouldn’t come into play, especially with nobody out.”
Or, to put it another way:
“You can’t make the first out at home,” Joe Giradi said. “It’s a quick decision he has to make. It’s a bang-bang decision — and it’s not an easy job — but you have the bases loaded and nobody out (if he doesn’t send the runner).”
The confusion came because Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly blocked the plate without the ball, but the league actually sent a memo earlier today saying that catchers can stand in front of the plate if they have the ball in plenty of time (basically making sure runners aren’t safe on a technicality, which is the best Drew could have hoped for). With or without the memo, it seems Drew would have been allowed to run over the catcher, but runners are basically conditioned to slide at this point.
“They still want them to slide,” Girardi said. “It really hasn’t changed a whole lot. They talk about they want the guys to slide. And the guys know that if the guy’s blocking the plate, they can run them over. They are so used to sliding now, in a sense, it’s going back and forth.”
That’s what Drew said. He basically had no lane and wasn’t sure what he was allowed to do, so he slid. But it all comes back to the decision to send the runner.
“If I had to do it again I’d probably do it the other way (and run him over) because of the outcome,” Drew said. “… At the time I thought it was be a little closer than it was when Tomper sent me there. At that point, it was already too late.”
• I’ll probably write more about this in the morning, but my impression of Girardi and everyone else was that this was the most resigned the Yankees have seemed all season. This really felt like the blow that knocked out what little hope remains for a playoff push. “It leaves us in a pretty big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically we have to win every day. That’s the bottom line: we have to win every day.”
• Girardi pointed out that immediately after Drew was thrown out at the plate, Derek Jeter still had a chance to drive in the tying run and he instead lined into double play. Sending Drew was a bad decision. Jeter’s ball was pretty bad luck.
• Girardi also called it bad luck that Ichiro Suzuki was doubled up at second base in the seventh inning. Ichiro had singled and stolen second base and he had a great jump trying to steal third, but Drew flied to right and Ichiro couldn’t get back in time.
• Chris Young drove in two of the Yankees three runs tonight. He got his first Yankees hit in his first Yankees start. It was his first hit and first start since August 5 with the Mets. It was his first RBI July 30 and first multi-RBI game since July 13.
• The other Yankees run came on Jacoby Ellsbury’s 15th home run. This is the second time in his career that he’s hit at least 15 homers in a season. Ellsbury is hitting .361 with 12 runs, three triples, five homers and 15 RBI in his past 19 games.
• Brutal game for Hiroki Kuroda, who’d been pitching extremely well before tonight’s debacle. “I had a great start in the first inning,” Kuroda said. “But I feel like they changed their approach in the second inning on, and I wasn’t able to re-adjust instantly. … I guess I should have changed my approach on my first pitches, which I didn’t do.”
• Kuroda struck out the game’s first three batters, but beginning with a leadoff homer in the second, he allowed four runs on nine hits without pitching through the fourth inning. It was the first time this season that he lasted fewer than four innings. “I just didn’t think he located his fastball very well and his split didn’t have quite the bite it had all of his other starts that we’ve been seeing when he’s been on a roll,” Girardi said.
• This was Kuroda’s shortest outing since May 22 of last year, and it was the most hits he’d ever allowed in a start of 3.1 innings or less. He was one hit shy of a season-high in hits allowed.
• The Yankees bullpen was exceptional. Seven relievers combined for 5.2 scoreless innings with just two hits, two walks and six strikeouts. The bullpen has pitched 20.2 scoreless inning in their past six games.
• Derek Jeter went 0-for-4 while playing in his 2,730th career game. He is now tied with Mel Ott for the eight-most games ever played among players who played their whole career with one team. According to Elias, Jeter also tied Ott for the most games ever played for a New York MLB team.
• We’ll give the final word to Mark Teixeira: “I mean, we want to win, obviously. That’s a tough game. We made a little run there, but you have to get to these guys before their eighth- and ninth-inning relievers. They’re two of the best in baseball. We had some chances in the middle innings but just couldn’t get over the hump. … We have to win a lot of games. We’ve said it before; we have very little margin for error. We have to try to win every night.”
Associated Press photos
There’s a chance Masahiro Tanaka has just one more hurdle to clear before rejoining the Yankees rotation.
Tanaka pitched a three-inning, 45-pitch simulated game this afternoon and declared his arm stronger and healthier than it was two weeks ago in Detroit. He’ll next throw a typical between-starts bullpen before pitching either another simulated game with the Yankees or possibly an instructional league game in Tampa (presumably on Sunday).
After that, a big league start is a legitimate option.
“I think that’s possible to look at, yeah,” Joe Girardi said.
Last time Tanaka threw a simulated game – August 28 at Comerica Park – he complained the next day about soreness and fatigue. That’s when Tanaka’s throwing program was temporarily suspended, creating real doubt about whether he would return this season. Today there seems to be far more hope than doubt.
“Definitely I was throwing stronger, harder than in Detroit,” Tanaka said. “Not overly worried (that it will be sore tomorrow). A bit concerned just because of what happened in Detroit, but when I was throwing, it was completely sort of different. A different feel than what I was feeling in Detroit versus today, so I think I’ll be OK tomorrow.”
Throughout this process, Tanaka has always sounded like a guy who knew his stuff wasn’t quite ready for the big leagues. But today, his tone was different.
“I do (feel ready),” he said. “But I’d probably build up a little bit more pitches before actually going into a competitive game.”
Girardi said he thought Tanaka was better in every way compared to the Detroit sim game. He said the velocity was better, command was better, and the offspeed pitches were sharper. Tanaka faced Chris Young, Antoan Richardson, Zelous Wheeler and Austin Romine.
“Really good,” Young said. “I’m not really sure how the (velocity) is supposed to look or anything like that, but I know his split-finger was just as good as ever and his breaking ball was just as good as I’ve ever seen it. I had the opportunity to face him earlier this year (with the Mets) so I knew what I was getting myself into standing in the box. He looked amazing. He didn’t give up a hit, and we’re all out there trying, for sure. We’re not just standing in. We’re trying to have competitive at-bats and give him as much of a real game situation that you can. He was locked in and made some great pitches.”
• When Brett Gardner had an abdominal issue in Cleveland earlier this year, he missed just one game. This time, he’s missed three games already. “He has an abdominal strain,” Girardi said. “We’re not sure exactly when we’ll get him back. He does feel better. He’ll see the doctor again tonight and then we’ll try to make some decisions on when he’ll start doing some baseball activities. … I’m not sure when we’ll get him back. It is a concern of mine. We’ll continue to talk to the doctors, measure how he feels and how he’s improving and go from there.”
• Gardner’s been perhaps the Yankees most consistent hitter this season. Their hottest hitter of late has been Martin Prado, and Prado’s also out of the lineup. His hamstring is still bothering him. “There’s concern about him playing on that, where he could really make it worse in his hamstring to where it becomes a serious issue,” Girardi said. “It’s still bothering him. Even though I told him to guard it — and he did a good job — there’s concern.”
• Girardi said there was no real setback from Prado playing the previous two games, it just hasn’t gotten better. “It’s the same,” Girardi said. “But there’s concern.”
• David Phelps will throw a side on Wednesday and it seems entirely possible — if not likely — that he’ll be activated for Friday’s double header. “Everything feels great,” Phelps said. Although he could be activated Friday (that’s purely my own speculation based on the timing of his side), Phelps said he’s not expecting to start one of those games.
• I only saw him for a moment as he was walking through the clubhouse, but Francisco Cervelli is definitely back with the Yankees. I never saw him in the clubhouse during those games when he was shutdown with the recurring headaches. The fact he was around today would seem to be a good sign.
• Although he’s gotten into three games and taken one at-bat, this will be Young’s first start since coming to the Yankees. “Not too many people know I’m over here yet,” Young said. “A few people still think I’m with the Mets. I don’t think the word’s gotten around town yet. Tonight I could change that.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos
Yankees pregame: Challenges ahead • 06.23.12
The Yankees will see Chris Young tonight in this second game of the second Subway Series, a guy doesn’t throw particularly hard but stands particularly tall.
“He’s so big that seeing the ball off a guy like that is a bit of a challenge,” Mark Teixeira said about the former Princeton basketball player, ready for his fourth start since coming back from shoulder surgery. “You don’t see 6-10 pitchers that often.”
It will be two challenges in two nights against the Mets because knuckleballer R.A. Dickey will start against them tomorrow night, riding a streak of two one-hitters.
“You don’t see a lot of knuckleballs,” said Teixeira, a former teammate of Dickey as well as Young. “The only guys I’ve really faced are (Tim) Wakefield and Steve Sparks maybe one time early in my career. When it’s on, it’s almost an unhittable pitch. I think R.A. has shown the past couple of years how good he can be. His last two starts, two straight one-hitters is unimaginable in today’s game.”
The Mets will have to try to deal with Ivan Nova tonight, going for an AL-high 10 wins.
“I think he’s pitched inside more effectively,” Joe Girardi said. “I think his fastball has been more consistent. You’re going to run into times when you don’t have your best stuff. But this is the guy we saw last year and who pitched so well for us. And I think he’s even pitching better at times than he did last year.”
Despite all their runners-in-scoring-position trouble, Terry Collins had high praise for the Yankees’ lineup.
“Personnel-wise and name-wise, this is the best lineup I’ve seen from a Yankees team,” Collins said, “… You can’t make mistakes. You have to be able to keep your concentration. … You’re looking at an infield, possibly everyone’s going to the Hall of Fame. Oh man. You show me another team that can do that.”
Reliever Tim Byrdak brought a live chicken into the Mets’ clubhouse yesterday after Frank Francisco called the Yankees “chickens,” which brings us to a story.
“When I was with the Yankees, Jimmy Key took Wade Boggs wild turkey hunting, and they didn’t get any,” Girardi said. “Boggsie was complaining the next day. So the following day, Jimmy Key brought in a frozen turkey and put it in his locker and screamed at him, ‘Here’s your turkey.’
“As far as practical jokes, Ryne Sandberg was a practical joker. He used to light your shoes on fire all the time. He would put things against your door in your hotel room and knock on your door and you’d have whatever, garbage cans spill all over you. But I thought that was pretty clever what Jimmy Key did.”